Happy Accident or Intelligently Planned?
Do you make a grocery list before you go shopping, but end up buying much more than you expected? Ever wonder why staple goods like milk, bread, and eggs are never located next to each other in a grocery store? Have you noticed that usually, dairy products are located in the back of the store? This way, you have to make your way through the rest of the grocery store before reaching these products. Chances are, everybody has some sort of dairy product on their grocery list. This layout is quite common and consistent across most grocery chains and their stores. This is not a mistake. In fact, it’s actually planned out perfectly. As consumers, we used to be able to avoid aisles (because that’s usually where the not-so-healthy food and snack products are), but this is no longer the case. Have you noticed that there are gigantic baskets of cheap snacks near meat and dairy products or at the end of the aisles facing the perimeter of the store? No matter which store you are in, there are huge signs shouting “SALE” for products like granola bars, cookies, chocolate bars, etc.
Tip: Be careful with impulse buys. A sale isn’t always a great deal when it’s something that you really don’t need. Make a grocery list and stick with it.
Healthy or.. not?
“FAT FREE” “50% less sodium/sugar” “No sugar added” “No artificial flavours” etc.
These are among some of the many labels that I am sure we have all seen. I’ve even seen products that are over 100% (I’m talking about you, Vitamin C) of your recommended daily nutrition. First question that comes to mind is, why do we need that much Vitamin C? However, many of us see these products, purchase, and consume them without a second thought. We believe that because we are getting all of our Vitamin C from this specific product, we don’t need to consume any more of it. Instead, we treat ourselves because we feel a sense of accomplishment for consuming more than the recommended amount. So, instead of eating fruits, we go for a piece of cake instead. By choice, we end up consuming products that are worse for us simply because we believe that we’ve already consumed enough healthy products! For example, I found this image off of Pepsico’s website.
Also, take note that the amount of sugar in 250 milliliters is a whopping 27 grams. By consuming just one glass of apple juice, yes, we are getting more than our recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. But is it worth it to consume that much sugar? The packaging is extremely misleading. Corporations will gloat about the benefits of their products, but they will never try and alert their consumers of the negative aspects of their products. We will never see a label that says “Beware of high levels of sugar”.
Tip: Try and stick to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s the best way nourish your body. In my opinion, it’s okay to have a treat once in awhile, but don’t overdo it! A multivitamin is also a great option to try and get all the vitamins and minerals we need, but don’t depend on it — you still need to eat healthy food too!
Bigger = More? Better Value?
This is no longer a surprise but still worth mentioning. The packaging of some products have increased, while the actual product that you’re buying has decreased. For example, cereal boxes are rather large, but the amount of cereal you actually get is less than before. This is one of the best ways for corporations to cut costs without raising prices enough for consumers to notice the difference or change a consumer’s mind to switch to another brand. The packaging of products try and convince consumers that they are getting better value if they choose to buy that specific product. This includes “family size” products, which sell for less in terms of per gram or ounce. Another alternative is to actually shrink the packaging size, but minimally, so that consumers do not notice the difference. Now, I’m not a big fan of pop but I have a friend who will drink a few cans a day. He’s noticed that the price of pop stays the same, or has increased by a few dimes, but the packaging has really shrunk over the years.
Tip: One thing to look out for is new packaging. Ever see the “same great product, new design” labels? More often than not, the packaging boasts of a great, new benefit for consumers, however there is a reduction in the amount of product they actually receive. In the photo below, we see that there is a new lid that is supposed to provide an easier pour for consumers, however there is a noticeable reduction in juice that the consumer gets. Perhaps, at this point, it may be better to look into another brand?
A less noticeable difference would be Skippy’s peanut butter packaging. Rather than changing the packaging altogether to a new shape, Skippy actually kept their packaging similar, but the bottom of the jar has a deeper indentation, making the amount of peanut butter consumers purchase to be 16.3 ounces instead of 18 ounces.
I found these two examples from a 2008 article by CNN Money, but the pattern continues. We’re paying more for less. For more examples from 2008, click here. A very recent example would be Cottonelle’s toilet paper as this blogger has pointed out in their blog. It’s a very descriptive article that shows the differences between the different packages – I highly recommend this quick read!
Another tip is to buy what you are actually going to use. Even if it is cheaper to buy in bulk, you may end up wasting more money by throwing out whatever you don’t end up using.
Looking Beyond “The Range”
This is simple — we usually buy what’s at our eye level.
Tip: Look above or below what you’re comfortable with. You’ll be surprised how much money you may end up saving!